"The Monster Engine" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by MWH Press
Written and Illustrated by Dave Devries
2005, 48 pages
Released in June of 2005
There is a place where monsters with ears attached to their hair can invade your mouth; a dark universe where flying witches sing sinister songs to make the sun go down; a planet where awful beings with detachable appendages live underground, eat kids and play soccer with their own body parts; a place where the Devil's wife can freeze you to death while eating a mixture of worm guts, frog brains, spider legs and bat wings. This place is the infinite world of monsters that exists within each child's brain. Thanks to the incredible talent and innovative vision of artist and illustrator Dave Devries, you can take a tour of that universe where uniqueness is almost commonplace and imagination is celebrated in all its limitless glory. Welcome to The Monster Engine.
The seed for The Monster Engine was planted in the summer of 1998, when the artist's 6-year old niece, Jessica, grabbed his sketch pad and drew some monsters. For Devries, looking at those drawings held an important revelation: "Kids just don't worry about proportions or judgmental criticism — they just draw — and that's the reason they surpass adults in creativity."
With the idea already in mind, it was only a matter of time before turning the world of children's monsters into a full-blown artistic project and eventually a book. The process Devries follows for his creations is simple: he projects the selected drawings with an opaque projector and then traces each line. With the lines for the drawing done, Devries then paints the image into life using various media. While this sounds simple, the artist does more than make kid's drawing look professional: he transforms the monsters into real, textured beasts inhabiting unique worlds. From the consistency of the skin to the way each monster seems clearly at home in its habitat, Devries masterfully provides so many details that each picture tells a story of a strange being in a faraway world.
While the art is definitely worth the price of the book, The Monster Engine contains an interview with the child that created each chosen monster. These friendly talks are hilarious and creepy as only a kid's imagination can be. Furthermore, the interviews provide each monster with an original, distinctive story and background. The backgrounds the kids provide to each painting rival Devries for creativity and actually serve as a proof that the artist's vision was somehow on the same wavelength as the kids'.
The Monster Engine is one of the most original art projects I've seen in a very long time and one of those art books that you will come back to again and again. I strongly suggest you get your hands on a copy.